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Free child care assistance in Florida.

Low income families in Florida can receive help for paying child care costs or even free daycare from the School Readiness Program. The state can provide grants, vouchers and various forms of financial assistance so that parents can pay for early education expenses. The program offers qualified, lower income families financial assistance through a wide variety of resources. There is free or subsidized daycare offered statewide, including in Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando Florida and across the state.

Some of the services in Florida include extended-day or year end care. Another option is for school age students. The overall goal is to help parents in becoming financially self-sufficient and to also help the child get access to the education that they need.

This program will assist parents and provide them with the ability to become financially self – sufficient by either gaining a new skill or starting a new job. The free or low cost, affordable daycare will keep parents participating in educational or training activities, or it may allow them to remain in the workforce. It also provides parents information about family well being and child development. Florida will in effect help working families afford quality early learning services.

Another objective is to allow young children to be successful in school in the future. Many studies show that by attending day or child care, that the experience will better prepare young children and infants to start kindergarten ready to learn or grow. However it is always important to remember that parents are their child's first teacher and people should not rely on a school or teacher.

A number of conditions need to be met by applicants, including income limits. School readiness funds in Florida are intended to help low income and working poor families with children who at risk of future school failure. Many of the families that enroll are recipients of temporary cash assistance who meet federal government work requirements. Others who tend to benefit are parents who are verified homeless, teenage parents, and victims of domestic violence. Migrant families and farm workers may also benefit from the program as well as working poor families of children with special healthcare needs and disabilities.

Parents who enroll for the free School Readiness Program need to also be either participating in an educational activity or employed. For example, you can be attending trade school or college at least 20 hours per week and still qualify for assistance with child care. Families who do enroll may need to pay a co payment based on family size and their total income, so minimal fees may be required to be paid by enrollees.




Benefits of the School Readiness program

It will take into account the child's level of emotional, physical, social, and intellectual development. Working with the parent, the state will, by paying for their child care, prepare children to become ready for school. Parents will also benefit as they will gain additional information on development and other areas of interest.

The school will provide a developmental screening for children. If needed, the program will also offer referrals to specific health and educational specialists across Florida. These different government and non-profit services work in cooperation with other programs for young children such as Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program, Head Start, and also the Early Head Start program. You will also get help with choosing a high quality, affordable child care provider that operates in your town or county.

The School Readiness program offers young children from disadvantaged families with access to quality early learning experiences. This will help prepare them for later school success. It will help ensure that every student, no matter their race or background, will receive world class early education and access to affordable and quality child care. The state will also work to ensure that all participating providers offer services that either meet or ideally exceed the requirements of the law. Children may be able to gain one or more of the following.

Character development programs, including literacy development. This is possible through individual education plans. Infants and young children will be able to enroll into early learning activities and instruction.

The Florida School Readiness program is open to eligible children that apply through the proper channels and who meet qualifications. Depending on your income, families may be assigned a co-pay amount that will be based on the state's sliding fee scale. Or they may be given free child care from the provider they select. Since funding and resources are limited, priority is given to children who have been determined to be at risk of abuse, those with parents that are economically disadvantaged, or children with a disability or special needs.





Applying for free or low cost daycare programs in Florida

To learn more about the School Readiness program, free government help or vouchers or other financial assistance to pay for child care, please call your county’s Early Learning Coalition. Or another option is to dial 1-866-357-3239 in order to get additional information or referrals.


By Jon McNamara

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